It is an important time of year for religious communities in Aiken County and elsewhere. Christians are celebrating Holy Week while Jews are observing Passover.

“When Holy Week and Passover overlap, it reminds us how Christians and Jews are cousins in faith,” said Dr. Fred Andrea III, senior pastor of First Baptist Church.

Holy Week is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter. It began yesterday with Palm Sunday and will continue through Holy Saturday (March 30). It also includes the religious holidays of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

During Holy Week, Christians think about the events preceding Jesus Christ's death, starting with his triumphant entry into Jerusalem while riding a donkey. That was followed by Jesus' betrayal by Judas, his Last Supper with his 12 apostles and his crucifixion.

“It is a time when we who commit to follow Jesus all year long, re-experience the final week of his life, reflecting on his passion and renewing our joyful obedience to live in a loving relationship with God and others,” Andrea said. “It's a rollercoaster-of-a-ride week, and it enriches the way in which we can celebrate the great joy of Easter and the resurrection.”

Easter Sunday is March 31.

Passover starts today at sundown and ends the evening of April 2.

The Passover Seder is a ritual central to Judaism – a richly religious experience marking the exodus from slavery in Egypt with an elaborate meal of symbolic foods, prayers, stories and blessings.

But it plays an important role in Christianity, too – a transformative experience marking Jesus freeing his followers from sin through the Passover meal and his subsequent martyrdom.

Though certain branches of the Church and scholars disagree, it is generally held that The Last Supper was a Passover Seder.

The synoptic gospels reference the preparations for the Passover feast and Jesus' eagerness to share it with his disciples.

In the gospel of Luke, it is written that Jesus said, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Whereupon Jesus is said to have offered Eucharist.

The directions given on the observance of the Passover feast, described in Exodus, are to slaughter a lamb, roast it and consume it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.

In the New Testament, Jesus puts himself in place of the lamb's blood, through the drinking of wine, and the lamb's meat, through the eating of unleavened bread. This action is seen by many denominations as the genesis of the Christian church as Jesus is said to offer a new covenant.